Where We Can Help - Rhode Island Colleges and Universities

Are you a student or the parent of student at a Rhode Island school, college, or university facing a school-related issue or concern?  Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help. The world of academia is unique, and the Lento Law Firm has unparalleled national experience bringing its problem-solving approach and fighting spirit to address school-related injustice.  Attorney Lento and his team have helped countless students and families in Rhode Island and across the United States at the school level and in court .  Please click on the following links for more information.  Please also see our expanded list of school practice areas

Joseph D. Lento has helped countless students and others in academia in Rhode Island protect their academic and professional future, and he can do the same for you.  Contact him today at 888-535-3686.

An Overview of Rhode Island Student Discipline and Student Rights

Rhode Island is home to several top-tier academic institutions. If you or your child is headed there for an East Coast education, you're probably very excited—and you should be.

College can encompass some of the best years of a person's life. On the other hand, however, higher education can be devastatingly difficult in many ways. From the steep learning curve required for many courses to the delicate interpersonal issues that can easily arise, there's a lot going on for many RI freshmen that requires deft management.

For example, many college students experience difficulty in academic courses. This can range from lower-than-expected grades to students who have a very hard time keeping up with the intensity and frequency of assignments. While this may just seem like part of the college experience, it can lead to attention from a school's administration. When this happens, students can easily receive sanctions such as suspensions or even expulsions just because they were struggling academically.

Academic concerns aren't the only reason that a school might mete out sanctions. Your Rhode Island school has likely identified a long list of problematic behaviors that could result in disciplinary action. Some of these behaviors are easy to identify; others may be significantly less common. In any case, if your school believes that you are responsible for any type of misconduct, it might be quick to slap you with a sanction that could impact your entire future.

At the Lento Law Firm, we believe that one misunderstanding or miscommunication shouldn't make it harder for you to get a job after college. We also believe that you should have the support and strong defense necessary to avoid sanctions due to academic struggles. To make sure that you're ready for a successful Rhode Island college experience, we've put together a handy page of resources for you. We'll start by identifying several of the most popular colleges and universities in Rhode Island, and then we'll start to discuss common types of misconduct at these East Coast schools.

The Public and Private Higher Education Institutions in Rhode Island

Although Rhode Island is small, it's home to several high-quality colleges and universities. If you're going to be attending school in The Ocean State, chances are it'll be one of these institutions:

Public schools in Rhode Island

  • University of Rhode Island
  • Rhode Island College
  • Community College of Rhode Island

The University of Rhode Island is the largest of these schools, as the main public university system in the state. In later sections, when we review the various regulations and policies that you may experience at your Rhode Island school, we'll use the University of Rhode Island as an example.

Private schools in Rhode Island

  • Brown University
  • Rhode Island School of Design
  • Providence College
  • Bryant University
  • Salve Regina University
  • New England Institute of Technology
  • Roger Williams University

While you may think that private colleges and universities don't have to follow statewide or national regulations, that simply isn't the case. There are some Rhode Island laws (and a few federal ones) that every school in this area will need to follow, regardless of their status as private or public. For example, all schools that receive any federal funding must follow Title IX. Even schools that don't receive federal funding will tend to follow these regulations in order to remain eligible for funding—or simply to ensure a consistent and safe college experience for its students.

Rhode Island has a few statewide governmental bodies and pieces of legislation that all colleges and universities in the state must follow. These include:

  • The Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, an independent public corporation that oversees the way that public higher education schools in Rhode Island operate
  • Title 16 of Rhode Island's state legislation, which lays out various acts and regulations relating to the finances, properties, and organization of Rhode Island's colleges and universities
  • The Rhode Island Department of Education, which oversees the way that the state's education regulations and laws are implemented and interpreted

Additionally, Rhode Island is in the First Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. From time to time, this court may hear cases and issue decisions that relate to student life. For this reason, it's a good idea to review the various opinions from this court, as they may influence the way your school is able to operate.

Academic Issues and Concerns: What to Expect at Your Rhode Island School

If you're struggling with academic concerns, it's important to know that you're not alone. Many new college students have a difficult time keeping up with the stringent, extremely high expectations their instructors have of them. Most colleges and universities say that they offer some level of support for these students. For example, they may have tutoring services available to help students who may be struggling. Schools may also provide some type of counseling for students who experience anxiety.

On the other hand, many schools say that they provide this type of support and then simply hand out disciplinary sanctions when students consistently struggle with their coursework. If your instructor has begun to raise concerns about your performance, it's crucial that you have a plan for avoiding sanctions that could make your situation far worse. After all, if you receive a suspension due to poor grades, that time away from school could throw off your entire academic game plan.

Here are a few of the types of issues your instructor could flag as concerning:

  • Your repeated failure to prepare (adequately or at all) for labs and coursework
  • Your repeated failure to complete any required reading or coursework
  • Your apparent failure to make academic progress (in the eyes of your instructors)
  • Your failure to complete any requirements in the allotted time frame.
  • Your alleged substandard performance
  • Your repeated failure to obtain a passing grade on exams
  • Any repeated withdrawals or incompletes in courses you attempt
    • Your failure to enroll for a minimum threshold of required credits

As a result of any of these situations, your instructor could recommend an academic sanction (such as a grade reduction) on the spot. Your instructor could also escalate your case to the administration for punitive measures. It's in your best interest to work with your student defense advisor to avoid either of these scenarios.

Code of Conduct Infractions and Types of Misconduct at Your Rhode Island School

Academic issues and concerns aren't the only way that you could attract negative administrative attention. Your school's code of conduct probably contains a lengthy list of apparently problematic behaviors that could result in a suspension. This code of conduct will also cover how your school will respond to allegations of misconduct or misbehavior. In this section, we'll review some of the most common types of misconduct.

  • Sexual misconduct. Your Rhode Island school will likely have a very harsh stance on all types of sexual violence, exploitation, or related actions like stalking. As a general rule of thumb, any sexual activity that occurs without the consent of all persons involved could result in punitive measures. Sexual misconduct is unique in that your school could choose to adjudicate your case under its code of conduct policy or under a distinct Title IX policy. Depending on the policy chosen, you may have slightly different experiences as the allegedly responsible student.
  • Academic dishonesty. As opposed to academic concerns and issues, academic dishonesty or misconduct occurs when a student breaks a rule in their pursuit of a higher (or easier) grade. For example, behaviors that could be considered academic integrity violations might include plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, cheating, data fabrication, and classroom disruption. Your school may consider you guilty of academic misconduct if you help another student with any of these actions, however unintentional that support might be.
  • General code of conduct violations. Aside from sexual and academic misconduct, your Rhode Island school will likely have several other types of behaviors that could result in disciplinary action. These violations might include hazing, hate crimes, drug or alcohol possession, or residential misconduct. This more generalized category of infractions is the one most likely to vary from school to school, so it's vital to make sure that you read your school's code of conduct to get the information you need.

Your Rhode Island school will have a system of procedures, typically known as “due process,” that it will use to investigate and adjudicate all allegations of misconduct. In the next section, we'll discuss what happens after your school learns about your alleged responsibility for a prohibited action.

How Will My Rhode Island School Respond to Allegations of Misconduct?

Once your school receives an allegation of misconduct, it will take time to determine whether to pursue an investigation or not. If your school decides to investigate, it should initiate due process by sending you a notification regarding the allegations against you.

If you're experiencing academic issues, this process may begin with your instructor expressing their concerns to you and then moving your case up to the administration.

At this point, you need to call in a student defense advisor. These situations can spiral out of control more quickly than you think possible. If you're facing a misconduct dispute, you should know that those cases can be won or lost in the investigative stage. The best thing you can possibly do to increase your chances of success is to be proactive: Call an experienced nationwide student defense attorney today, not later, when you're desperately in need of their expertise.

After you receive the notification about your allegations, you should also start pulling together all possible information about what happened. Create a timeline leading up to the central event, find all of the evidence you can to substantiate your side of the story, and write down all of your memories surrounding what happened. This vital information will come in handy later!

After your school has completed its investigation, it may decide to invite you to a formal hearing before a panel of representatives. At this hearing, you will have a chance to tell your side of the story. You may also be able to review all the evidence your school has against you and question any witnesses. Your school may or may not allow you to bring your student defense advisor into this hearing. Even if this is the case, your advisor will still be immensely helpful in getting you ready for the hearing and making sure you're comfortable delivering all of your needed information.

At the end of your school's hearing, the panel will deliberate, come to a decision regarding your responsibility, and issue a recommendation for sanctions.

What Types of Sanctions Are on the Table at My Rhode Island School?

In your school's code of conduct, you will find a long list of the types of sanctions you could be at risk for. This list may include a varied array of punitive measures, including:

  • Fines
  • Detentions
  • Mandatory education
  • Mandatory change in housing
  • Loss of privileges
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion

Your school may indicate that your punishment will be carefully considered and recommended to fit your alleged crime. However, that doesn't always happen. Far and away, the most common sanction meted out for a wide range of types of misconduct is a suspension.

This may not seem like a big deal. You may think that you could weather a suspension without suffering too much. After all, what's some time off school?

You can't think like this. A suspension can do incredible damage to your reputation, academic progress, and your future chances of success. If you receive a suspension, then by definition, your transcript will have a gap in it. Later, you're going to need to explain away this gap whenever you apply to internships, future schools, and even jobs later in life. When future employers and schools hear about this gap, they will not be impressed. Very likely, they'll offer that opportunity to someone else—all because of your suspension.

That's why it's crucial to do everything you can to make sure that your transcript remains unharmed. It may be possible to negotiate for a reduced sanction or otherwise achieve a successful outcome, but you've got to act quickly. Your defense advisor will be able to help you determine your best course of action.

First, you may consider filing an appeal. Next, we'll talk a little bit about that process.

How Can I File an Appeal at My Rhode Island School?

While every school's appeals process can be a little different, you'll likely experience some version of the following events when you appeal:

  1. Determining the basis for your appeal. You will likely have only one chance to file an appeal, so it's in your best interest to make sure that your appeal is as strategic as possible! Typical reasons to appeal may include being able to demonstrate that your school did not follow its own rules during your adjudication or having new information that your school did not have during its initial investigation. Your student defense advisor can help you determine what the best basis for your appeal is.
  2. Writing an argument in support of your appeal. You'll need to write a persuasive argument summarizing your rationale as part of your appeal. Here, again, your student defense advisor will be able to help you out: As a professionally trained lawyer, they will be well-versed in the best ways to present a strategic argument.
  3. You'll then need to file your appeal with the correct person at your school. At many schools, this is the Dean of Students.

After some time for deliberation, your school will let you know if they're willing to reconsider your sanctions, negotiate with you, or if they're simply refusing to speak with you further. Your student defense advisor will be able to help you with productive negotiations or help you with any other actions deemed necessary at this time.

One of your options may be to consider pursuing litigation against your school.

How Do I Sue My Rhode Island School?

First of all, it's key to realize that this is a very dramatic step. It's also a relationship-ending one; at the end of the litigation process, you will likely not be able to return to your status as a student at your school.

Prior to initiating a suit, there are some preliminary steps that you should consider.

  • Make sure that you have exhausted all avenues for relief at your school (e.g., the appeals process). Even if you don't believe that they will work, it's important to have these actions documented.
  • File a complaint with the Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner. This office may be able to exert some external authority on your school.
  • Have your student defense lawyer reach out to your school's office of general counsel. This can very often smooth things over and help you avoid an expensive lawsuit.

Are There Any Other Rhode Island Laws That I Should Know About as a College Student?

Yes! While you're attending school in Rhode Island, you'll need to follow local laws to avoid getting in trouble. To round out this helpful page of RI resources, we'll list some specific laws that may relate to your college experience.

This includes a set of regulations known as statute of limitations laws. These laws designate the specific window of time after an event during which involved parties can bring legal action against each other.

Here's what you need to know:

Rhode Island Laws about Underage Drinking: Rhode Island has a very strict policy on underage drinking. While under the age of 21, it's illegal to possess or consume alcohol.

Rhode Island Laws about Drinking and Driving: Rhode Island has a zero-tolerance policy regarding driving under the influence. Being caught doing so could net you steep consequences.

Rhode Island Tenant Responsibilities: If you live off-campus, you will be expected to follow any rules set forth in your rental agreement (e.g., paying rent on time).

· Rhode Island False Identification Laws: In Rhode Island, it is illegal to show a fake ID to an officer of the law.

Statute of Limitations Laws in Rhode Island

  • Injury to Person: Three years
  • Libel: 1 year
  • Slander: 1 year
  • Fraud: 10 years
  • Injury to Personal Property: 10 years
  • Contracts: 10 years
  • Judgments: 20 years

If this seems like a lot of information, it's because it is a lot to take in! Fortunately, you don't have to handle all of this on your own.

Call Attorney Joseph D. Lento to Protect Your Future and Your Reputation

At the Lento Law Firm, we believe that you should be excited about heading to college in Rhode Island—not worried about academic concerns and misconduct disputes. Yet, it's important that you have all the information at your fingertips. College can be a difficult time. Unfortunately, there's a lot that can stand between you and your goals of making lifelong friends, achieving a valuable degree, and ultimately being able to jumpstart the career of your choice.

Whether you're experiencing academic difficulties or you're anticipating a disciplinary process in your future, it's time to be proactive. You need to make sure that your school takes you seriously and doesn't steamroll over your rights. You need to call Joseph D. Lento.

From the investigative phase of due process all the way to appeals and beyond, Attorney Joseph D. Lento will provide detailed, targeted student defense knowledge. For years, he has helped students across the nation as they work through sticky situations to successful outcomes. He can coach you through hearings, assist with persuasive arguments, help you manage investigations, and more.

Don't be tempted to try and handle your disciplinary processes on your own. That won't end well. Instead, bring in a professional and reap the benefits.

Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation, or simply fill out our online contact form to receive a timely response.

Contact Us Today!


If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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